Network, Network, Network!

Blogger: Angie Wong

Networking is key. When I started college, I convinced myself I didn’t have to make new friends or talk to anyone else because I already knew so many people here. However, my group of friends was always changing. In addition, I found a student organization that I enjoyed participating in. Initially, when the officers in the student organization stressed how much networking could help a student, I was hesitant. I did not like the idea because I was comfortable in my little “box” and feared putting myself out there. As I progressed in my college education, I had friends who started pushing me to talk to professionals. Not only did I start making connections with professionals, but I also made new friends.

Networking in college can benefit you in many ways. For example, the more you speak with professionals, the more confident you become in speaking with other peers and other professionals. You will gain the confidence you will need when you graduate and start working full time anywhere. It may seem intimidating at first, but the more practice you get and the more people you talk to, the more confident and comfortable you will be.

Another way networking is beneficial is that you create these connections that you may continue to speak to throughout your career. They may come to your aid later in your career; for example, if you are looking for a new job, looking to connect a colleague to a specific company, field, or position, or if you want to learn more about other professions. These connections you create may also become close friends you keep in touch with in the future.

What is the first step you should take to start networking? You could join a student organization that allows you to make different connections, from your peers to professionals. This will give you the practice to become more comfortable with speaking to others.

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TXCPA2B Named One of the Top 100 CPA Blogs by Feedspot

Congratulations to TXCPA2B for being named one of the Top 100 CPA Blogs by Feedspot. A huge “thank you” to our wonderful University of Texas at Dallas student bloggers who continue to submit insightful, informative and well-written content for our blog. This honor wouldn’t have been possible without you! Also, thank you to our readers/subscribers for helping us make this list!

The full list of the Top 100 CPA Blogs can be found here.

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How to make yourself “marketable”

Student blogger: Mondal Kotak

Student blogger: Monal Kotak

I have often heard that you have to be marketable when you are looking for jobs, or, in other words, sell yourself. But what exactly is making yourself marketable, especially in accounting? If you are one of those people, like me, who actually love accounting, then you must be aware of the various career paths that we can choose from, and to land a job that you love is a boon. But doing all the right things is what will get you and me there.

Get a degree

You are already on the right track if you are going to college to get a degree, whether it is a bachelors or masters.  Getting a degree has numerous benefits. I was professionally developed, meaning, I learned not just about the academics, but also about how the industry works. More often than not, grad schools will have events where you can meet professionals from different fields of accounting. There are programs like VITA where you can get hands-on experience with taxation. There are projects where you have to perform work for actual companies. You learn how to operate in the business world even before you actually start working. Getting an accounting degree made me eligible for different certifications like CPA and CIA that will add value to my degree. That brings me to the next thing that we, as students, need in order to sell ourselves to the prospective employers.

Get certified

If you have set your eye on a particular career path, then adding a certificate that closely relates to that path will be a definite plus. When I talk to different accounting professionals, I always ask them about which certificate to go for, because let’s face it, there are a lot; and when is a good time to get it. The common answer throughout professionals from different paths is to get a CPA because it gives you an overall balance across different areas of accounting. About when to get it, there are mixed reviews. Some say get it while you are in college because it is easier to get it done when you are still in “study mode,” and that also gives you an edge over those who don’t have a certificate on their resume. Also, you tend to get busier when you start working full-time. The reasons for doing it after college were that it isn’t a requirement to get a job and that your employer might pay for it. But, if you really want to get a head start, I say go get that exam out of your way.

Get an internship

If you ever wonder why an entry level position asks for work experience, or how are you supposed to have experience when you are just out of college, then an internship is the answer. Not everyone is working full-time in the profession of their choice while they are still in school. And not everyone is aware of what career path they want to walk in for at least the next decade or two. An internship is the best way to try out the path you are interested in but are not sure if you can stick to it for years to come. It also sets a foundation for when you are ready for the real world experience after graduation. An internship will catch your future employer’s eye showing them that you have a serious interest in that job. I got two internships, one in internal audit and one in tax, again a benefit of being in college, and that has made me aware of what I will be looking for in my job after graduation.

Get involved in a student organization/student chapter

Not only does this show that you are socially active, but this is also a good platform to show leadership. Being the Research and Development Chair in the organization has helped me build my own team, learn management in my own small space, and take responsibility. These are some traits I could never have learned just by going to classes. Plus, you can have some stories built when you are a part of an organization, which can be good conversation starters.

We hear everyone saying how important networking is in today’s world. But networking will not come to our benefit if the package we are offering is not what the employers are looking for. Networking will work the best when tied with the qualities that are required in the professional world. So, let us go get groomed and get that professional life we desire.

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Improve Your Networking

Student blogger: Flor Morales

Student blogger: Flor Morales

Here is the only tip you need to improve your networking (as a student): It’s not about the job, it’s not about your resume – it’s all about your relationship.

We all have that stack of business cards for all the people we’ve met, but can’t bring ourselves to write an email to? Why? You can barely remember what you said, and you can’t find a reason to reach out to them.

After over two years, I’ve come to realize that the best connections I have right now are not because I impressed them with my resume.

We’ve all heard that we should “talk to everyone in the room.”  That might be a little tricky if you’re in a room of over a hundred people. The reality is – you’re not going to be remembered by everyone. Instead, hold as many conversations as you can in order to identify those with whom you do make a connection.

Afterwards, it will be so much easier to send a follow-up email talking about the interests you share.

Don’t wait until the last minute to reach out to someone. Start building those relationships now, and when the time comes for that letter of recommendation, you won’t have to remind them what to say.

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5…6…7…8… How Dance Made Me a Better Accountant

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Blogger: Elaine Chen

When I think of my childhood, I think of the previous 10+ years of my life I spent in a dance studio. As a dancer, I was trained in competitive dance and spent 15-20 hours of my week in classes and rehearsals. Friday nights and Saturdays were reserved for rehearsal, and if a show or competition was coming up, I was committed to rehearsals every day of the week.

As time went on, it became clear to me that I wasn’t meant for a career in dance. Now as an accounting graduate student, I often look back at those years I spent in dance and wonder if all that time, energy, and money were wasted. I now realize that the hours I spent in rehearsal pushing myself physically and mentally beyond my limits taught me more than dance technique. In fact, many of the valuable skills I learned as a dancer apply as an accounting student.

Endurance.

The blisters, bruises, and injuries taught me more than physical endurance. I had to first learn the skill of mental endurance before I could endure physical pain. Enduring pain and discomfort taught me to think BEYOND the current moment and to pursue the future reward. It wasn’t about the physical pain in the moment but the reward that I would benefit from in the future. In dance, the future reward was improved technique or flexibility. As an accounting student, the future benefit was a thorough understanding of the subject, better grades, and a more promising future.

Concentration.

When I was in the dance room, I didn’t have Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram around to distract me from what I should be focused on in the moment. In fact, in class and rehearsals, there was very little that could actually distract me from what I should be concentrating on. My dance teacher used to yell, “Stop thinking about what you’re having for dinner. Your mind should be here!”

Studies show that people are most efficient when there are no distractions and that multitasking actually inhibits your performance and productivity. Dance classes and rehearsals trained me to focus my full energy and mind on one thing in the moment and to ignore everything else. As a student, this applies to my study habits by forcing myself to ignore everything around me and to concentrate on the material in front of me. Dance trained me to use my full concentration by blocking out the distractions around me.

Team work.

One of the most important parts of a strong dance performance is the team’s ability to synchronize their dance movements and to perform coherently together as a team. In a truly well-coordinated performance, the group of dancers must react according to the movements of the leader up front and sync their movements according to the timing of the leader. If one dancer falls behind, that dancer impacts the rest of the group, and the remaining dancers must improvise and adjust accordingly. The final performance must come across as a well-coordinated and synchronized dance performance that is the product of hours of team effort and practice. Similarly in school and work, a successful final product or goal cannot be achieved without a great team.

Applying my experience as a group member of a dance team to my experience in school, I learned to select my group members carefully because each team member plays an important role in the performance and success of a group project. Similar to a dance performance, the dynamics of every team required me to react according to the skill level and talents of each individual team member. In a well-coordinated team, each member supports and complements each other in a different way. From my past experiences as a team member in dance, school, and work, I learned that a truly functional and supportive team is an efficient and effective one.

There is a saying that goes “knowledge is power.” I would argue that the ability to apply that knowledge is what makes knowledge powerful. Simply put, it’s not about what you know – it’s about how you apply what you know.

Ultimately, anything you learn from one experience can be applied to another. The skills I learned from years of dance practice trained and prepared me to become a better accounting student and employee. I now realize that those ups, downs, thrills, and struggles from each of my past experiences shaped me into the person I am today. While accumulating knowledge can make you a “powerful” person, the ability to apply that knowledge provides a much more valuable skill. The key is to realize that none of your past experiences were wasted and to apply what you have already learned and practiced to anything you are striving toward today.

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Relevant Experience for an Internal Audit Student

malik-2

Blogger: Malik Wilson

I’m an accounting student at The University of Texas at Dallas and a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors and the National Association for Black Accountants. When I graduate, I plan to work in either risk advisory with an accounting firm or internal audit with a large corporation. To prepare for this role, I accepted two internships for this year—a spring 2017 co-op in internal audit with J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc., and a summer 2017 internship in business risk consulting with Crowe Horwath, LLP.

My interviews for these roles were successful partly because I could discuss relevant experience.

If you’re wondering whether I was an intern or employee in internal audit before the interviews, the answer is “no.” I had completed what could be considered an internal audit activity when I started my new role as the president of our student chapter of the National Association for Black Accountants (NABA-UTD) for the 2016-2017 school year.  It turned out to be an experience that my interviewers saw as relevant to the roles I applied for.

Here is the Experience I Shared with My Interviewers

Student organizations at The University of Texas at Dallas get an account on a platform called OrgSync. This platform allows organizations to track members, send mass emails, and post information about upcoming events. Last year’s meeting logs showed that a challenge would be overcoming low meeting participation. I wanted to learn about the current members of NABA-UTD and use the information to make administrative changes and plan recruitment strategies. I used my administrative rights on OrgSync to see what I could learn about the students who were registered as members of NABA-UTD. I also browsed through the OrgSync administrative settings and other online tools for reference.

Here are the findings I documented:

  • 30 students were registered with the organization on OrgSync.
  • 30% of the registered names did not show up in the online Directory of Students when cross-referenced. This means that a third of the members were no longer enrolled at the university.
  • 7% of the names were those of underclassmen.
  • The “messages portal” showed that notifications about events were sent to @utdallas.edu email addresses of students registered with NABA-UTD on OrgSync.
  • I dug through my old @utdallas.edu emails and confirmed that OrgSync was the only source of NABA-UTD emails about events.
  • 4 of the profiles weren’t even those of business students. I found a computer science major, for example.
  • Students could become members only by simply clicking “join.”

This analysis uncovered a serious issue that stifled participation: NABA-UTD was reaching out to a smaller and less targeted audience than believed. This is because of an unreliable information system – or unreliable data in the system. NABA-UTD was only using one communication platform – OrgSync. A third of the emails sent by the OrgSync message system were to unenrolled students who likely no longer had access to the @utdallas.edu system. The message also fell to students who didn’t fit the profile expected of NABA members. In fact, I personally contacted the computer science major to get an understanding of his interest. His response: “I think I clicked ‘join’ on accident. I had no idea why this organization was sending me emails.” This could have been avoided if the administrative settings were set to a higher standard to join online. Furthermore, underclassmen were not getting the message about NABA-UTD and its events.  It was clearly time for changes to the system.

Here are a few of the changes made (or “recommendations” as they would be called in an internal audit report):

  • The administrative settings were changed. Students interested in joining the online portal had to submit a request to join. The request must be approved by the administrators of OrgSync – usually students on the executive board.
  • Emails for freshman and sophomore students who fit the NABA-UTD profile were garnered with the help “contact forms” and other resources.
  • NABA-UTD started using three different communication methods—OrgSync, GroupMe, and Google.
  • Students whose names didn’t show up in the Directory of Students were deleted from the portal so that we could have a more accurate picture of membership on OrgSync.
  • com was used to announce events and allow students to register for them. This system also required that students use an email while registering. NABA-UTD sent links to the EventBrite.com registration to leaders of other accounting organizations. This allowed us to reach a broader audience, collect more emails, and predict how many students would attend events.

Result: The average meeting attendance grew from 7 to 28.

I started this analysis only to get an accurate picture of NABA-UTD members and to use the information to boost participation. As I got interested in internal auditing later in the semester, I realized how closely this activity looked like a normal internal audit. I was able to discuss this experience when I interviewed with Crowe Horwath, LLP and J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.

What This Experience Showed My Interviewers About Me:

  • An understanding of internal audit
  • A knack for using analysis to inform decision makers
  • An ability to track and measure goals
  • Problem identification and problem solving
  • Initiative in starting projects
  • An inquisitive mindset

If you search internal audit job descriptions on Indeed.com, you will likely see a nearly identical set of bullet points – only the headline will be “Desired Skills.” There is likely no better way prove to yourself that your experiences are relevant!

What Sharing This Experience Did for Me:

  • Boosted my confidence that I am prepared for this role
  • Gave me a chance to have my own audit project reviewed and approved by internal auditors
  • Assisted in communicating my fit for internal auditing to my interviewers

My interviewers at Crowe Horwath, LLP and J. C. Penney Corporation, Inc. commended the relevance of my mini-audit of NABA-UTD and the skills the experience showed. This was an audit that I started on my own to assist with my presidential duties. I felt confident that the audit projects I lead or work on during my internships would be equally commended. That’s all thanks to a discussion about a relevant experience.

Relevant experiences don’t have to come from paid work with a corporation or firm. They can come from detailed involvement with a student organization, volunteer opportunity, or even a self-start project. What matters is that the problems, goals, and results from the experience are documented and that the similarity between the experience and your targeted role is clearly expressed.

My advice to you is a linguistic one: “Do you have relevant experience?” is not synonymous with “Did a company pay you to do this work under a similar job title?” Don’t limit your own interview story by assuming they are synonymous.

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How to Choose a Career

daniela-ivanova

Blogger: Daniela Ivanova

When you wake up in the morning, which of the following scenarios would you prefer to identify with?

Scenario 1: I look forward to a new day and a chance to move closer to my goals. I never know what to expect, but I’m ready for any challenge knowing that at the end of the day, although I will come home exhausted, I will be full of gratification.

Scenario 2: I dread waking up knowing that each day I will have to drag myself to work. I spend my day counting down the hours until the work day is over and make it home exhausted and frustrated.

What is the biggest difference in these two scenarios? Could it be that you are working at a job that you hate or is it simply a matter of your perspective? To me, the answer is your passion. If you are not passionate about what you do every single day, then you are probably doing something wrong. Of course there is a lot of pressure to choose a major that will lead to status or will pay comfortably, but at the end of the day, if you’re not happy then not much else matters. So how do you find a major that makes you happy and will lead you to live a successful and fulfilling career?

Let me start with why I am passionate about accounting, my chosen major.

Accounting is not just “crunching numbers” and mathematical calculations all day. It is an opportunity to see how a business functions and how each employee’s contributions develop the business as a whole. Beyond that, I truly believe there is such thing as “good business.” I believe there are profitable companies that are also successful in encouraging their employees to better themselves and their environment. There are companies founded based on common beliefs that they can change the world for the better. I believe that ALL profitable companies need to be held accountable for the community they belong to and, reaching beyond that, to leave a positive impact on the world.

As we all know, many executives can lose sight of the “good” once money begins to pile up. The power money has can breed corruption quickly. As an accountant and hopefully one day a CPA, I would feel a sense of responsibility to ensure that proper, ethical practices are in place. I hope to be able to help businesses prosper so they can contribute more to the world around them and provide assurance that they are not taking advantage of either their profits or employees.

So how do you choose an area you would want to spend your career in?

You may find that you have many passions to choose from just as most of us do. Try to focus on what stands out the most to you in your daily life and makes you feel the most accomplished. When I started taking accounting and business courses I found that I was much more dedicated, interested, and motivated by them than any of my core classes. I encourage you to take the time to explore what matters the most to you and develop your own set of values and beliefs, regardless of societal pressure. Try new challenges, explore interesting classes, join fun organizations, and ultimately do whatever drives you not only to success but most importantly, happiness.

In the words of Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

 

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